One of Banksy’s iconic Girl with Balloon prints sold at auction over the weekend for a cool £860,000 ($1.6 million AUD). Then it self-destructed. Moments after the hammer fell, the artwork was neatly torn into a series of long, thin ribbons, courtesy of a shredder that had been pre-built into its frame.
It was all very Banksy—and presumably, the stunt meant to convey some kind of anarchistic statement against the capitalist world of art collectors; a not-so-subtle Fuck you to the kind of people who take a stencil of a girl with a balloon and sell it for £860,000. Senior director of the Sotheby’s auction house, Alex Branczik, confirmed that they “have not experienced this situation in the past where a painting spontaneously shredded,” and said they are “busily figuring out what this means in an auction context,” ABC reported.
What it means, according to some experts, is that the work could now be worth almost double its original price. The destroyed print has become a one-of-a-kind piece of art history, apparently: the product of a quintessential Banksy-ism that people will be talking about for years to come. And Joey Syer, co-founder of MyArtBroker.com—a website that resells Banksy pieces—suggested this historical element does wonders for the piece’s value.
“Given the media attention this stunt has received, the lucky buyer would see a great return on the £1.02m they paid last night,” said Joey, via Twitter. “This is now part of art history in its shredded state and we’d estimate Banksy has added at a minimum 50% to its value, possibly as high as being worth £2m plus.”
Geneva-based artist Pierre Koukjian similarly described the prank as “a turning point in the history of contemporary and conceptual art.”
“What he did is really shocking, in a good way,” said Pierre, who was at the auction when the shredding took place. “I think it will be historic and people will talk for a long time about it.”
Other collectors are now considering shredding their own Banksy pieces in the wake of the widely-publicised event, according to a recent tweet from MyArtBroker.
“We've had a number of #Banksy print owners contact us today asking if they shred their artwork will it be worth more,” the tweet reads. “Please, Please DON'T. The events of the last 24hrs are a very unique piece of art history.”